Charity buys land for first of 48 planned reserves


A rewilding charity has bought 186 ha of land in Somerset to help create the first of a series of nature reserves in every English county.

The charity Heal, which launched at the start of the pandemic, said the £5.25m site near Bruton will aim to tackle the nature and climate crises. It hopes the site will become a blueprint for a similar site in each of the 48 English counties by 2050.

The land Heal has purchased in Somerset features three small tributaries of the River Frome, miles of hedgerows, mature oaks and other trees (PA).

Ideas for the site include food growing areas and a community meeting space. The landscape at the site, which will be called 'Heal Somerset', is pastureland, with three small tributaries of the River Frome, miles of hedgerows, mature oaks and other trees. It also has a number of traditional stone farm buildings which the charity wants to renovate.

Under the plans for rewilding, which aims to restore natural processes to the point where nature can take care of itself, small numbers of rare-breed cattle, pigs and ponies will be used to graze the land in a natural way.

Trees will be able to regenerate and other plants will be able to grow, as part of the creation of a mosaic of habitats including scrub, grassland, bare earth and water to help boost insect numbers and attract other species. It has launched a major public fundraising appeal to repay the loans and seek support from major donors for its projects.

Jan Stannard, Heal's co-founder and chair of trustees, said: "We have been inspired by the many positive responses and people's enthusiasm. The potential for nature to bounce back at Heal Somerset is huge. The process of rewilding has already begun and though it will take many years for nature to recover, we expect to see positive changes immediately, first small and then more visible within a couple of years."